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Pizarro's Beethoven
Schuchter's Mozart & Schubert
(Bösendorfer) on CD

Moonlight, Tempest, Pathetique and Appassionata Sonatas
Artur Pizarro LINN CKD 209

Alternatives to the nearly ubiquitous Steinways stimulate alert listening and offer important perspectives for familiar, sometimes over-familiar music (q.v. Schiff). Who can resist exploring another Beethoven series? Certainly not Artur Pizarro, who has 'devoured' every recording of the Beethoven series he could lay his hands upon (an uncommon admission amongst performing musicians) preferring those from the 1920s to 1950s. His chosen warm-toned Blüthner, 'more nimble and transparent' than a normal 20th grand, offers 'something different, ridiculously expressive, and old-fashioned' as he tells Gramophone.

Pizarro is not one of the 'top names' on the London circuit, but he is fondly remembered for his participation in the Hyperion/Blackheath pianoworks Festivals, where he played a wide variety of music and gave master classes, and I had opportunities to talk with him and with Ted Perry, innovative founder of Hyperion, whose death last week is widely lamented.

Winner of the 1990 Leeds Piano Competition, Artur Pizarro has previously given cycles of these lynchpins of the repertoire in Kansas and Portugal. These are big-boned, thoughtful yet romantic, hugely expressive and risk-taking performances, which sweep you along. How much risk, you can find out by attending his live Beethoven Sonata series of recitals at St John's Smith Square which, on this sampling of the most popular sonatas (most popular because they are 'named') is an exciting prospect. Perhaps Linn will let him follow it up with the Hammerklavier and Les Adieux and then, if they sell well, allow Pizarro to complete a Beethoven cycle on CD?

Since 2001 I have returned again and again to Gilbert Schuchter's Tudor Recording AG integrale recordings in the '70s of the piano works of Mozart and Schubert (Tudor 741-752). This is an interesting small label which explores 'niche' repertoire overlooked elsewhere. 'Joy of joys', I wrote, 'Schuchter is recorded on a sweet-toned Bösendorfer, just right for this music', and for his relatively unassertive style.

No holding Pizarro's horses, though; that nimbleness sometimes encourages extreme speeds (e.g. in the finale of the Tempest which is Allegro-Presto rather than an unhurried, Schubertian Allegretto). Plenty of adrenaline flows throughout this programme, but everything remains clear and under the control of Artur Pizarro's acute ear, intelligence and heart.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Performances and booking at www.sjss.org.uk/ Details of R3 broadcasts from St John's include a link to hear the first movement of the Tempest sonata.

© Peter Grahame Woolf